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Business Plan - Typical Contents

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

The typical contents of a full form business or strategic plan are listed below.

Executive summary

  • What is the business?
  • What is the market?
  • What is the potential for the business?
  • Forecast profit figures
  • Funding requirements
  • Prospects for the investor/ lender

Description of the business

What is the business?

  • A brief description of the business idea and why it should be a success
  • History of the enterprise and its ownership
  • Information about the entrepreneur’s qualifications, experience and financial status
  • Location

Products and services

  • A description of the product and what it does
  • An explanation of ways in which the product is distinctive and unique
  • Analysis of the competition
  • How the product will be developed and what new products are being considered as replacements
  • Intangible assets & protection (e.g. copyright, trade marks)

The market

  • Size and expected growth of the market
  • Analysis of market by segments
  • Identification of target segments
  • Competitors - who they are, ownership, size, market share, likely response to the challenge
  • Customers (existing & potential) - who they are, how they buy, why they buy
  • Distribution channels

Situational audit (where are we now?)

This involves data collection and analysis

Purpose of data collection and analysis:

  • Determine which opportunities to pursue
  • Identify SWOT
  • Identify competitive advantages
  • Provide a background for the formulation of strategy

Main analytical techniques:

  • PEST/ PESTLE analysis
  • SWOT analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Marketing audit

Statement of aims and objectives (where do we want to go?)

  • A statement  of what the business should achieve over a five year period
  • Aims should be expressed in terms of hierarchy of objectives becoming progressively more detailed and specific
  • Vision - what the organisation will be like in the future
  • Mission statement - a statement of the overall purpose and aims
  • SMART Objectives - quantitative goals.
  • Functional objectives - objectives for the functional areas

Strategy and tactics

  • How are we to get there?
  • Strategy is the broad approach to the achievement of objectives
  • Summarises how to fulfil the objectives
  • Tactics refer to the details of the strategy e.g. the promotional mix
  • The detail will be contained in programmes and budgets

Marketing: key questions to be answered

  • Who are our customers?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What is the size and growth rate of the market?
  • How is the market segmented?
  • What is special about our product or service?
  • What are our competitive advantages?
  • What is our marketing strategy?

Marketing plan

  • Market research
  • Segmentation and targeting
  • Detailed outline of the product or service
  • Unique selling points
  • Chosen pricing strategy
  • Promotional plans
  • Distribution strategy (including online)
  • Customer service strategy

Operations plan

  • Physical location
  • The production process
  • Facilities
  • Equipment
  • Scale & location of operations
  • Capacity - potential and effective
  • ICT strategy
  • Engineering and design support
  • Materials required
  • Inventory levels and stock control plans
  • Purchasing arrangements
  • Sources of supply of key resources
  • Quality control plans
  • Staffing requirements

Management and organisation

  • Organisational chart
  • Details of senior management
  • Corporate governance
  • Staffing requirements
  • Key personnel
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Training
  • Rewards (financial & non-financial)
  • Labour relations
  • Employment and related costs

Forecasts in the business plan

  • Sales forecast
  • Forecast profit  and loss account (income statement)
  • Cash flow forecast (cash budget)
  • In each case this should be a month by month forecast for a minimum of two years
  • Forecast balance sheet for each of the first two years
  • The assumptions behind the forecast should also be included

Financial data

  • Investment appraisal - payback and discounted cash flow
  • Break even analysis
  • Evaluation criteria for performance review
  • Ratio analysis: net profit margin, Gross profit margin, return on capital employed, liquidity and solvency analysis

Financing required

  • Details of capital required and uses
  • The plan must include details of the external finance required
  • This will be equal to the finance required less finance raise internally from existing owners and from operations
  • The plan will outline how it is proposed to raise the finance
  • Sources of finance: Short, medium and long term; Debt v equity

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Revision quizzes for business students

Starting a Business

Sources of Finance for a Startup
Cash Flow Forecasting for a Startup
Creating & Protecting Business Ideas
Startups and Understanding the Market
Market Research for a Startup
Locating the Startup Business
Choosing a Legal Structure for a Startup
Employing People in a Startup
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making


Breakeven Basics
Costs, Revenues and Profits
Business Costs
Using Budgets
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making
Investment Appraisal Basics
Financial Strategies
Measuring and Improving Profit
Improving Cash Flow
Working Capital
Balance Sheet
Income Statement
Financial Efficiency Ratios
Profitability Ratios and ROCE
Liquidity Ratios


Products & Brands
Place (Distribution)
Price Elasticity of Demand

Business Organisation

Basics of Business Growth
Business Activities
Legal Structure Basics
Sole Traders and Partnerships
Limited Companies
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Organisational Structures


Working in Teams
Communication Basics
Communication Methods
Workforce Planning
Recruitment, Selection & Training
Employee Motivation
Organisational Structures


Operational Objectives
Critical Path Analysis
Scale and Resource Mix
Lean Production
Capacity Management
Customer Service Basics
Managing Quality
Operational Decision-making
Using Technology in Operations
Working with Suppliers

Economic Environment

Economic Sectors
Government Spending & Taxation
Interest Rates & Monetary Policy

Business Strategy

Leadership styles
Business Culture
Change Management

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